General aviation airports rely on federal money, making it vitally important that Congress maintain Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding at least at current levels, AOPA President Mark Baker testified before the House Aviation Subcommittee.
During the June 18 hearing on airport financing, Baker told the panel that the need is high for safety, expansion, improvement, and environmental projects at general aviation airports. According to the FAA’s most recent National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems report to Congress, airport infrastructure needs far exceed the funding available. From 2013 through 2017, the FAA estimates that airports will require some $42.5 billion to meet all AIP-eligible infrastructure development demands. That’s significantly more than the roughly $3.35 billion annual allotment.
In addition, the availability of non-primary entitlement funds depends on maintaining at least $3.2 billion in annual AIP funding. Non-primary entitlement funds are available to GA airports and non-primary commercial service airports listed in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems that show a demonstrated need for airfield development. GA airports that qualify are eligible to receive up to $150,000, making the entitlement a significant funding source for many small airports.
“America’s airports are the true backbone of aviation, and without a robust airport network, aviation cannot grow,” Baker told the panel.
The hearing was convened by Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), who is also a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, to consider how anticipated growth in air traffic will affect the physical infrastructure of the nation’s airports and to look at sources for financing infrastructure needs.
In addition to Baker, the subcommittee heard from representatives of the FAA, the Government Accountability Office, the American Association of Airport Executives, Airlines for America, and Airports Council International.